London Fashion Week wrapped up this week after five days of back to back catwalk shows and presentations for global industry insiders and taste makers.
Anna Wintour and Anna dello Russo made a fleeting visit for shows on Mega Monday – when the biggest designers have a slot on the schedule and a few shows – from Alexa Chung, House of Holland and Self-Portrait – were also open to the paying public with £100+ ticket price tags. However, the real marker of this fashion week was the hovering presence of Extinction Rebellion activists threatening to stage funeral marches outside show venues and PETA protestors pouring black goop over their heads to highlight the toxicity of leather manufacture. The question – which remained unanswered by many designers – was what exactly is the fashion industry doing to slow down the climate crisis?
As one of the world’s biggest polluters, fashion is in trouble. The volume of garments being made is rising faster than we can wear them – literally – with two tonnes of clothes purchased every minute in the UK and 11 million garments ending up in landfill every week. Most of these fashion victims are cheap fast fashion fixes, rather than the artisan creations of small runs and high prices that we see at LFW but still an acknowledgement of the situation would go far… rather than tone deaf press releases citing the beauty of the Amazon as inspiration and the ensuing collection a ‘tribute’ to the burning rainforest. The excesses felt out of step with societies’ big issue although any designer that did more than nod to sustainable practises stood out for praise.
Fyodor Golan showed a collection inspired by the “campy confections of Marie Antoinette” (so far, so LFW) but presented upcycled shoes in a collaboration with Kat Maconie and bought in repurposed elements “in a move towards a zero-waste path of creation.” Bravo.
In the static exhibition, recent Central St Martins graduate Patrick McDowell presented a collection made from reclaimed materials and a collaboration with Converse, bejewelling their recycled plastic bottle sneakers. Patrick’s guide to Sustainability (including ten things we should all be doing) needs to be required reading. Even the most hyped designer of the week, Richard Quinn, brings thoughtfulness beyond the aesthetic to his work. As the first winner of the QE2 Award for British Design (presented by the Queen to Quinn on the catwalk four seasons ago) his designs are couture-level incredible. Wild floral silken prints, crystal embellishment, voluminous shapes and an epic show (that bought the Philharmonia orchestra to a sports hall in East London) made Quinn the hottest ticket of the week. But to create such maximal extravagance with minimal waste is beyond important. The printers he uses need minimal water and any inks are neutralised so they don’t leach into the water system. All prints are made in house to exact volumes (meaning no deadstock) while on-site production cuts down global shipping.
It seems so easy so why do so many brands seem to have their heads in the sand? As Roland Mouret announced his support of the Arch & Hook Blue hanger – made from 100% recycled marine plastic – it bought into the spotlight one of the most wasteful elements of the supply chain, when clothes are transported from factory to warehouse and plain hangers are swapped to branded front of house hangers. Mouret told GLAMOUR that none of his peers were interested in adopting the hangers. If even the most basic swaps can’t be met, where does that leave an industry with a major image problem?